Well before the election of Barack Obama as president and the initiation of a national broadband stimulus plan, a Denver-based wireless broadband provider, Open Range Communications, was quietly working to deploy a major broadband network.

In March 2008, the United States Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development Utilities Program (RDUP) approved a $267 million loan for Open Range with the stipulation that private financing also be secured, according to an Open Range statement.

In January, Open Range announced an investment of $100 million from One Equity Partners, the private equity arm of JPMorgan Chase, thus satisfying RDUP’s loan terms.

Although Open Range declined interview requests, its January statement said, "The funding enables Open Range to launch affordable high-speed broadband Internet and voice services to more than 6 million citizens in 546 underserved and rural communities, using WiMAX technology, within five years."

Open Range will lease mobile satellite spectrum from Globalstar, and according to its statement: "Customers simply connect an Open Range Simply Easier device to a desktop or laptop computer for instant, portable … access to the Internet. In most communities, network equipment will be located on existing towers."

(For a story about a Canadian WiMAX network, click here.)

In the United States, Clearwire is rolling out a mobile WiMAX network for major metropolitan areas. (For more, click here.)

From development to operations

Last week, Cloud 10, a customer service company, announced it had been selected by Open Range to provide work-from-home customer care professionals. Cloud 10 will provide sales, service, billing and technical support to rural subscribers with customer service representatives (CSRs) who live in the same areas.

Open Range’s first deployments are planned for later this summer in rural communities in Northern Colorado, said Sean Erickson, CEO of Cloud 10, adding that his company has been working with Open Range since 2006 to spec IT requirements and to help develop a service strategy.

Erickson first became familiar with the work-from-home model of customer care when he was at MCI in the 1990s, he said. At that time, the CSR often just worked with a T-1 connection to his home. With the expansion of broadband to rural areas, the home-based customer support model is much more scalable, he said.

Open Range’s WiMAX network is planned for 17 states, according to its statement.

– Linda Hardesty

Read more news and analysis on Communications Technology‘s Web site at www.cable360.net/ct/news/.

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